I was reading the recent article in the Times about Buffett warning on the deficit, and it made me think back to the Old Time radio broadcast I was listening to the other day. Produced by the Treasury Department, it was broadcast to help drive war loan and bond sales, one of the primary methods of financing put in place by the US Government during World War II.
Largely forgotten by many today, these war bonds and war loans helped to fund a large percentage of the war and also helped give people a place to put their hard-earned money.
While many Americans could not afford to buy a whole bond at once, there were alternative methods of doing this. One of the ways this could be done was via stamps. Not postage stamps, but bond stamps. According to the work, Funding the Modern American State, in 1941 people could purchase stamps for small amount, collecting them in specialized books, which when full, could be exchanged for a bond.
Using the celebrities and Hollywood stars of the day such as Rita Hayworth above and Orson Welles (see links below) everyday people were urged to “do their part” to win the war. From payroll savings plans and bond events, these proved highly successful, even during the later parts of the war.
Seeking revenue continuity, the "drive" technique, used exclusively during World War I, was dropped in favor of continuous promotion of bonds. However, eventually a dual method, which would combine long-term investment on a monthly basis (e.g. Payroll Savings Plan) and occasional short-term campaigns was adopted. Over $180 million worth of radio, print, and outdoor advertising was donated and over $156 billion raised in the eight war loans.
While I’m only able to touch a bit on this topic, I’ve arranged some great links below to give you some in-depth information on this overlooked topic. It’s not as boring as it may seem, and will you some good insight on the American economy during the war. I’ll leave you today with a link below to Billboard magazine, giving us a snippet of information about the 7th War Loan.
Have a great day!
(1-3) NARA (National Archives)
(4) Duke University Library
(5) Google Books: Billboard Magazine